Idea Foundry’s Life Science Innovation Program gets a boost from U.S. Department Of Commerce

Idea Foundry, a Pittsburgh-based economic development organization, is one of 27 organizations in the nation to be selected to receive the prestigious i6 Challenge grant through the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) Program.

November 21, 2016

The award, in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh, will go towards a cooperative effort to advance life science innovations in the region and will allow Idea Foundry to continue to drive life science innovations at the academic level and promote entrepreneurial achievement that benefits the region at large.

“The RIS program advances innovation and capacity-building activities in regions across the country by addressing two essential core components that entrepreneurs need to take their ideas to market: programmatic support and access to capital,” said Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “As America’s Innovation Agency, the Commerce Department has a key role to play in supporting the visionaries and job creators of tomorrow,” said Secretary Pritzker as she congratulated the awardees.

“We’re honored to receive this generous grant from the EDA and excited to strengthen our ongoing relationship with the University of Pittsburgh and the Innovation Institute. Both organizations have a shared vision of cultivating and inspiring a community of academic innovators who will fuel the creation of startups and help preserve our regional strengths. This award provides us with the means to build on our joint initiatives to achieve a significant impact,” said Nehal Bhojak, Director of Innovation at Idea Foundry.

Idea Foundry and the University of Pittsburgh have a long-standing relationship and have been working towards a common goal of fostering a regional leadership position in the life sciences sector. Over the years, the two organizations have successfully created and refined a systemic approach to accelerate the commercialization of life science innovations originating from the University.

“This partnership with Idea Foundry began in 2010 with support from the City of Pittsburgh and it has been an integral part of our life sciences commercialization strategy. The ability to expand this successful partnership with support from the Department of Commerce will allow even more high quality life sciences companies to get started and grow in the region,” said Marc Malandro, Founding Director of the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute and the Vice Chancellor for Technology Management and Commercialization at the University of Pittsburgh.

These efforts between the University and Idea Foundry have resulted in the formation of companies such as Qrono, a computational drug development platform, and Peptilogics, which is developing next generation antimicrobial peptide technology. These companies have successfully transitioned out of the academic domain and gone on to attract attention at the national and international level.

“Idea Foundry has not only helped Qrono in developing and growing our business, they were a key driver in formation of the company.  They recognized the opportunity and brought the right people and pieces together to create the company that we have today.  Simply put, Qrono exists today because of Idea Foundry,” said Larry Zana, CEO of Qrono.

“I took full advantage of the continuum of assistance and advice offered by Pitt and Idea Foundry, from courses at the University, through Idea Foundry’s Life Sciences Accelerator Program and ultimately as part of their investment portfolio. Idea Foundry played a crucial role in identifying the need to focus, and their advice and guidance was critical to my development from a scientist to an entrepreneur,” added Jonathan Steckbeck, Co-founder and CEO of Peptilogics Inc.

The i6 Challenge award will enable Idea Foundry to create additional success stories and strengthen efforts to promote innovation and entrepreneurship within the University and in the region. Idea Foundry will work with Pitt and its innovators through all stages of the innovation life cycle and help build sustainable life science-focused ventures that have far-reaching impact.

“Life science and healthcare innovation have deep roots in the Pittsburgh region and led the way out of the industrial decline of the 1980s and provided growth and stability to the region’s economy through more recent challenges. This funding might provide the pathway for the next great innovation in life sciences to launch,” signed off Mike Matesic, President & CEO, Idea Foundry.